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Mute swans settle in at City Park

February 13, 2002

Mute swans settle in at City Park



By DAN KULIN
dank@herald-mail.com


Swans are again swimming on the lake at Hagerstown City Park.

To the oohs and ahhs of 22 children, two white mute swans hopped into the park lake Tuesday afternoon.

"I think they're beautiful. I think they'll be very happy here in the water," said 5-year-old Taylor James. "The swans are my favorite because they're so beautiful, because they have white feathers.

James was with a group of children from the Surrey Child Care Center who watched as the swans were dropped off at their new home.

The park has been without swans since the last one died July 23.

Since then, the city has received about $4,500, and pledges for another $1,120, from people who wanted to help buy new swans for the park. The contributions will pay for swans, veterinarian bills, and a plaque that will list the names of those who donated to the swan fund, city spokeswoman Karen Giffin has said.

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City Public Works Manager Eric Deike said the plan was to put four mute swans into the park, but two of the swans the city was going to buy flew away last week.

The new park swans came from a farm near Sharpsburg owned by Washington County resident Milton Stamper. The city will pay $400 for the two mute swans brought to the park on Tuesday, Deike said.

At least two more swans will be brought to the park within the next six weeks, City Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said.

"Swans and City Park go together," Hendershot said.

City officials had hoped to buy swans earlier, but had to negotiate with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to receive a permit for the mute swans.

DNR officials had requested the city buy tundra swans instead of mute swans.

The straight-necked tundra swans are native to North America and typically migrate through Maryland, whereas the curved-neck mute swans are considered an invasive species.

When mute swans eat, they pull the vegetation from the ground instead of grazing on it. That method of eating has caused problems for wildlife on Maryland's Eastern Shore, which has a feral population of about 4,000 mute swans.

But the Mayor and City Council decided the park should have mute swans, not tundra swans.

The city and DNR negotiated a compromise that places several conditions on the city's purchase of the mute swans. The park swans must all be the same sex, and if not, then the male swans must be sterilized; the swans' wings must be clipped so they cannot fly; a metal identification band must be attached to each swan; and the city must place informational displays about the swans at the park.

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